1939 New York World's Fair
Remembering loved ones long gone
butterflies are free!
After all that talk about egg creams, I can't wait to go to Publix to get some Fox's u-bet Chocolate Flavor Syrup. I hope they still sell it because The Brooklyn Cookbook said I absolutely cannot make an egg cream without Fox's u-bet! I don't drink dairy milk anymore so I'm going to make one with almond milk. Oh yeah, I don't have a soda siphon either, so I'll have to be satisfied with a bottle of seltzer. I'll let you know how my unreasonable facsimile turns out. After all, egg creams are almost exclusively fountain drinks, so I'm not expecting Rocky's Famous. I love the drama of superlatives, like this quote that Elliot Willensky wrote in his book titled, When Brooklyn Was the World: 1920-1957, "a candy store minus an egg cream, in Brooklyn at least, was as difficult to conceive of as the Earth without gravity." 

Today, the rainy weather caused my summer air conditioner checkup person to arrive much later than expected. I had to change my plans to indulge in reminiscense over a frothy egg cream. While I waited, my muse encouraged me to drift back to that day in 1939 when I went to the New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, just east of the City. I was four years old. It was the first time I can remember going to something huge, other than Coney Island.  There was a lot of walking for little girl legs and after awhile I was tired and a little whiny. Everyone was going to take a break and sit down to have a soda, but not me. I had to have an egg cream and nothing else would do. Dad tried, but just couldn't find a place that made them. I couldn't understand it and asked him why didn't he just go down to the candy store and get one. Everyone laughed. I settled for a cream soda, my second favorite drink.

The best part of the World's Fair was that our whole family went somewhere together for the first time, even Grandpa Simonetti. I have a photo of him by the Italian Pavilion.
There was a statue of Roma on top of where he was sitting.He was so happy to be there.

Grandpa Vincenzo
                      Simonetti            Grandpa Vincenzo Simonetti

It cost 75 cents admission when the World's Fair first opened on April 30, 1939. Then they reduced it to 50 cents on October 1st. Dad said it could be because of the Depression and a lot of people couldn't afford 75 cents each if they had a big family, but it could also be that it could get cold in New York in October. Everyone was still recovering from the Great Depression. The Fair ended on October 27, 1940. Those were hard times for a lot of people, but not for a little girl.

Looking back, I realize that the significance of our day at the Fair was that the whole family was together, something I reluctantly gave up when Mom moved me to Florida in 1953. In 1956, I was 20 and married my first husband, Hal Wilson, and not long after, Mom moved back to New York and lived with Jean and Pete.
(Now this may sound ridiculous coming from someone who is 80, but another benefit of getting older is not having to censor everything I say, so here goes.) I always knew Jean was Mom's favorite. (I still can't believe I said that!) I understood that. Mom was only 19 when Jean was born and they grew up together, more or less, and were much closer in age. I came along unexpectedly when Mom was 32,  just when she was relieved that she was done with raising babies. It must have been hard for her. Jean told me when I was an adult that Mom planned on leaving my Dad after Jean and Buddy got married. She never planned to have a third child. Surprise, there I was, and to make things worse for her, my Dad gave me all the attention she probably never got.

Dad was ecstatic to have another little baby girl. 
It was love at first sight. Mom told me how Dad made signs to put around my crib that said things like Don't touch the baby and Don't pick up the baby and the one that still makes me laugh, Don't breathe on the baby! Now remember, my mother was the Queen of Gross Exaggeration, so I can't swear this is all true. I do have empirical proof that all my baby pictures show Dad walking me in my baby carriage, or holding me in his arms, not Mom. She was a tigress when it came to physically taking care of her cubs but I don't remember her ever hugging me and I do remember her pushing me away when I tried to hug her.

Life turned out happily for me. My life was waiting for me in Florida. I just didn't know it at the time. Eventually Mom moved in with her grandchildren, Peter and Winnie, and they took excellent care of her for about ten years, until she came to Gainesville to live. I felt honored to be the one to see her through her last years. We had some good times that reminded me of how childlike she could be at almost 90. Here's a favorite picture of us dressed as gypsies for Halloween at the Atrium, where she lived in her own studio apartment.

We loved to play dress-up and that year we wanted to be gypsies. The skirt I'm wearing was made by my sister Jean. It was originally a beautiful long skirt she made for a trip to Italy, via Perillo Tours, with her husband, Peter Lomuto. I think they were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary but I'm not sure. I'll have to ask their children, Arlene or Peter, or maybe Peter's wife Winnie knows. Mom is holding a precious tambourine that belonged to her mother Principia.  Mom passed it on to me when I grew up because I was named after Principia according to the Italian naming convention rule that the second daughter had to be named after the baby's maternal grandmother. I guess mom and her sisters didn't like the name Principia so we all got named Priscilla or Beatrice. I never understood how Beatrice fulfilled that rule.. When my daughter Kimberli became an adult, I passed it on to her since she's a singer/songwriter, among her many other talents.

Halloween Gypsies-Pris
                      and Mom

The night Mom died, Gordon and my children gathered in our meditation room with the Methodist minister friend of ours  who married us in 1982, the late Dr. Donald Bain. He knew Mom was Catholic and brought the sheet music to Ave Maria with him and sang it for Mom in Latin. Then he asked if anyone wanted to sing another song that our mother and grandmother liked. Without skipping a beat, we all broke out in song with Mom's favorite, Darktown Strutters' Ball.

Buddy wanted to have a Catholic Mass for her in New York where most of our relatives still lived. We didn't want a service here because not many people knew her. I wanted to be here with my family in our Gainesville home to share this sacred moment together.
A few days later, I put her false teeth in a pretty metal box and Randall dug a hole for it by the biggest tree in our back woods. We sang her song while we buried her false teeth. I had called the dental school to see if they had any use for them as a teaching tool but they declined. I just couldn't bear to throw them out since she had had them since I was born and to me they were part of her. Sounds funny to write about burying false teeth, but I'm not, and none of my children are, what you would call conventional by any means. People who didn't really know Gordon treated him like the professor he was, but he was into psychology, for heaven's sake, like those bad boys from Harvard, Richard Alpert (alias Ram Dass) and Timothy Leary, always trying to expand the limits of their consciousness in any way they could!

As I sit here at my desk while I type this, I notice the fig tree has grown so big it's hogging half my view of the woods. Mom loved fresh figs and so do I. They are just starting to ripen, like this book.
I can still look through the branches and see the big tree that has Mom's angel on the trunk and her teeth below it.

Meanwhile, back at the World's Fair, we took lots of pictures the day we went to the World's Fair and some continue to be very meaningful to me today. Although I have a ton of photos of us in assorted groups of relatives, I have only two pictures of just my sister, my brother, and me, alone together.

The first one was taken at the 1939 World's Fair. Jean was 17, I was 4, and Buddy was almost 14. We really dressed up then and those high heels of Jean's couldn't have been comfortable walking around for hours. The second photo was taken on the day we hoped would never come, the day it was time to move Mom into a nursing home where she could get the professional care she needed that we were not equipped to provide.
When Mom left Peter and Winnie's house in New York, she moved to Gainesville. We found a cute little apartment at the Atrium nearby where Mom lived happily for over three years. We had fun fixing up her place. She bought all new furniture, something she had never done in her whole life. Mom made friends easily and everyone there knew her and liked her. They called her "The Walker" because she could always be found walking around the place. But the time had come for a drastic change. 

 I couldn't bear putting her in a nursing home, even with all of Gordon's support.
I called my sister Jean and my brother Buddy and told them I wasn't an only child and they had to come to Gainesville and help me do it. They came right away. Jean came up by train from Boca Raton and Buddy flew down from New York. The photo on the right would turn out to be the last picture ever of the three of us as we sat outside at  Palm Garden Nursing Home, holding back the tears. Jean was an Earth angel and she got her wings on Randall's birthday in 1993. Mom joined her the next year.

Jean, Priscilla, and
                      Buddy at 1939 NY World's Fair         The day Mom went into the nursing home in

The symbol of the 1939 New York World's Fair was the Trylon and Perisphere, a 700-foot spire and 200-foot sphere. They had a small replica set up for photo opportunities, like the one below with my Dad, but the real one was huge and impressive, especially to a four year-old. I remember being wide-eyed over two freebies the vendors gave out, tiny pins you could put on your lapel. My favorite was the Mr. Peanut pin, but the tiny Heinz pickle pin ran a close second. I wish I still had mine. They're antiques now, selling on eBay for over $20 each, but I'd never sell mine. I've written many articles about this World's Fair. If I repeat myself it's only because of what it meant to me in retrospect.

Me and my Dad at the
                      1939 NY World's Fair                     Trylon and Perisphere

sun and moon 

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